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How Entrepreneurship Might Be Genetic

By Adam Heizman | Inc.

Becoming an entrepreneur can be a big leap of faith for anybody. Because it’s risky, it can be scary. In the end, you want to know that somehow you have the upper hand. Having science on your side can help give you this confidence, which leads us to a discussion about whether genetics could be a factor in your favor. If entrepreneurship were genetic after all, wouldn’t you want to know? Furthermore, wouldn’t you want to know if you fit the mold?

Although there haven’t been too many studies on this subject, there are scientific theories and one major study that can help give you a little bit of insight into this interesting question. Consider this evidence below and then decide for yourself whether genetics are something you’re going to take into consideration when deciding if entrepreneurship is right for you.

Studies Answer the Question: Is Entrepreneurship Genetic?

The Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology at Kings College, London

The study was conducted by a number of researchers, including Tim Spector and Lynn Cherkas of the Department at the college along with Scott Shane, professor of entrepreneurial studies at Case Western Reserve University.

In short, the group studied the behavioral and molecular genetics of entrepreneurship by looking at a general pool of people as well as identical and fraternal twins. They tested the number of businesses a person had started, the length of time someone was self-employed, and other factors such as the desire to run a business. The findings included:

  • 37 to 48 percent of the tendency to be an entrepreneur is genetic.
  • The tendency to identify new business opportunities is in your genes.
  • Self-employment income is heritable, which means that genetics affect not only the tendency to engage in entrepreneurship but also the ability to perform it.
  • The tendency to have personality traits such as extroversion, openness, etc., has a genetic component. This suggests that your genes could affect your tendency to be an entrepreneur by influencing the type of personality you develop.

It’s worth noting, however, that Shane did admit that studying aspects of business from any biological perspective is really young, so the information we have is limited. Still, the study above is the most authoritative study to date.

The Verdict: Are Genetics Something to Take Seriously if You’re Thinking About Entrepreneurship as a Career?

According to Dr. Michael Baird, chief science officer of DNA Diagnostics Center: “It’s well known we get half of our DNA from each of our biological parents. Every day we are learning more about how a person’s DNA influences their physical traits and behavioral traits. It’s certainly possible that a person could inherit the genes to be an entrepreneur–I say genes because it’s likely a combination of genes, not a single gene. It could be a combination of genes that makes a person a leader, a risk taker, or other entrepreneurial traits that are potentially inherited from our parents. Environmental factors combined with the DNA we inherit could also trigger entrepreneurial characteristics.”

While the scientific evidence is persuasive, studies agree that genetics isn’t the end-all-be-all for entrepreneurs. There are many other factors, such as upbringing, but even more so some factors outside of the person. For example, economics in a particular location, culture, education, taxes, and even natural resource abundance could all affect someone’s ability to be a successful entrepreneur. In other words, whether or not you think genetics is a factor, it’s hard to argue that it is the only factor.

So in the end, it’s important to realize that while entrepreneurship might be in your blood, people have differing opinions and everyone has a chance at success no matter what the genetics.

Read More:

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